Different, But Not the Same

May 1, 2008
By Faith Memmo, Manhattan Beach, CA

She knows that she wants to leave. She continues to tell herself the useless command, “go”. But she stays and the window keeps her there. “Seeing what it would be like is enough,” it says. It taunts her. She can see, but she cannot touch. She can watch, but she cannot do. So why does she stay? She did not have an answer. The only answer is the window. That taunting window that keeps her from the outside world. That allows her to see, but not to experience.
But what she is seeing is not the present. She does not see the identical houses on the opposite side of the street that are dirty white with red brick roofs or the green grass lawns that sit in front of every house. Nor did she see the tall, green eucalyptus trees that were unevenly spread out across the block. She did not notice how her lawn was not the prettiest on the street. Or how the houses on her side of the street were not quite as kept as the houses on the other side of the street.
She barely even noticed the inside of her own house. How the wallpaper was fading away and detaching itself. How the floors were so dirty that they were too dark of a shade. She did not even notice that the window was smudged and she was lucky that she could see out of it at all. But even this, even the thing that created her happiness and dismay, was unrecognized. For she did not see what was happening now. She instead saw a former life, a life of endless freedom and happiness.
She saw three girls jumping rope. The girl who was doing the actual jumping was so similar to her, yet so many worlds apart. She looked so careless in her yellow summer dress jumping over the rope as the two girls sang songs and twisted it for her. The rope brushed the pavement every few seconds, and her feet lightly padded the dried out and cracked asphalt. They jumped out there all day from sunrise until sunset.
But they did not jump for anything, not for a prize or even for recognition. They just jumped because it was fun. How she wished to be that girl. Everyday. That was the memory that haunted her the most. The happy memory. The one where her life was the greatest. She could not even imagine being like that now.
She fast- forwarded a few months later. She and her house smelled of alcohol, and there was no way to get rid of it. She poked her head through the door and saw the countless beer and wine bottles. They made her feel sad and helpless, so she sat outside.
She saw a group of her classmates in uniforms huddled around something. She quickly got up and walked over. She peered in and saw what all the commotion was about. “Isn’t it so cute?” she heard someone say.
“Cute” is not exactly how she would describe it. How about huge and scary and monstrous? Yes, huge and scary and monstrous. She expected the thing weighed about 300 pounds and was surprised that the asphalt was able to hold it. She was also surprised that these kids were still alive. “Come over here and pet it,” her friend encouraged her. Slowly, one step at a time, she inched toward the huge, brown and white, long- haired dog. Her hand tentatively brushed its soft and matted hair. She pulled away.
But she did not do everything slowly. She loved the feeling of going fast. She had been doing it forever. The wind made her eyes tear and her hair go crazy, even though now she wore a helmet so she wouldn’t get hurt if she fell. Her friends and her were racing down the street, the same street that they had been riding for years. She looked around and saw the familiar faces of the passerby’s, the many houses (one of which was hers), the trees that had grown so tall and now had many strong branches, and the tire swing that was tied on to one of the branches by a frayed, brown- white rope. Poor tire, she thought as she saw it opening at the seams. It had been retired for a long time. In the next yard, she saw the elderly woman bent over taking care of her plants. She looked as if she was swimming in a sea of red, yellow, and blue.
As she was admiring their beauty, the group was coming to the end of the street. “Hey guys, let’s go to that hill over there,” she hears one of the boys yell. The hill? What? Why did we have to leave the street? She didn’t like the sound of this. I mean, they had never biked anywhere beside their street. But everyone agreed in unison, and what was she gonna do? Not go?
She followed the crowd. She didn’t even notice her surroundings. The only things that she noticed were that it was darker here and not as pretty and that the houses were not white but tan and grey and black. The whole time she was freaking out and not sure what she was going to do to get out of this. I could pretend I’m sick, hurt myself, say I need to go home. All of these ideas seemed lame or stupid to her, so she kept thinking. But no more came to her, and she ran out of time.
They were there, at the hill. The boys and girls all sat at the top of the big hill on their rusty bikes that were painted every hue of the rainbow, hers being pink with flowers on it. No one else’s was pink, and no one else’s had flowers. She saw some kids start to go down and heard them screaming. She was preparing herself. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. She pedaled forward and leaned over the hill. Wow, it was big and steep and had so many cracks. Breathe in, she told herself. She picked up her feet and held her hand firmly on the brake.
She started to release the hand that was on the break. Half of the people had already gone down. Pinky lifted, fourth finger unwinded, her third finger was resisting. Now her thumb and second finger were left. She was about to release the two fingers when she quickly turned the front wheel and went back the way she came. She heard laughter and rode home as fast as she could with tears streaming down her face.
And lastly, the image that doomed her and ended her existence in the world. It was an overcast day. The air was extremely wet and very cold as she sat at the end of the street with her friends. “I’m so bored,” one of them complains. Why?, she could not help to ask. This was perfectly fun to her.
“We could ride bikes,” one suggests. “Or trick the old lady down the street.” There were no takers.
And then someone thought of jumping off the bridge over the highway that was being repaved. Everyone agreed so quickly that he could barely get the idea out. But she did not want to do that. They all thought that it would be fun. But she didn’t.
She stood up with them. They were all talking about what it was going to be like when they got there. How fun it would be. But not her. The whole world seemed to stop for her. She did not hear them. She did not want to do it, but they did. She did not want to bike down that big, scary hill, but they did. She did not want to pet the big, furry dog, but they did.
She turned around and walked back to her house. She heard their voices fading, and the only remaining sound was her footsteps softly padding the road. She could feel herself nearing her house. One step, two step. She was on the patio, hand on the door, and she entered the haven of safety and serenity.
She did not want to do what they wanted to do. She did not want to be like them. But what was she going to do? Not be like them? Not do what they did? Not feel the same?
But instead of making this decision, she decided to not have to decide at all. She decided to stop making decisions all together. Then she wouldn’t have to be different. She wouldn’t have to be afraid to make a mistake. She pretty much didn’t have to do anything.
And that is exactly what she does: nothing. She just sits in her wooden chair in front of the huge window that is next to the door at the front of her house everyday, just watching. The window takes up most of the wall and gives her a perfect view of the outside world. The place that she no longer belonged in. The place that she wished she lived in. Everyday she has been convincing herself that it is better in here. It is better in the enclosed area. In the empty living room where only the chair and herself resided. The place where she did not have to make decisions because there was no reason for her to risk humiliation, embarrassment, injuries, bad choices, or even her life when she could be perfectly fine in here.
But there is no reason to stay. She makes up these excuses that aren’t good enough. Not good enough to keep her cut off. Not good enough to stop her from living her life.

The only problem is that she is trapped now. There is no way for her to escape. How could she? She had been there for so long. It is like her father trying to live without alcohol. It’s not possible. But as she thinks these helpless thoughts she sees something out of the corner of her eye. Something new. Something black and shiny and steel. This is what she has been waiting for. Her reason. Her reason to leave. Now she has a chance. Take it while you can, a voice screams at her.
So she stands up, for the first time in a while. It looks to her as if the solution to all her problems lay in this lovely object. She went over and picked it up. It was cold and clammy, not very inviting.
You can do this. You can do this. Slowly, she walked over to the window. She lifted the heavy piece of medal over her shoulder like a baseball bat. Her heart was beating quickly. Her eyes glazed over and she saw strange patterns. You can do it. Before she told her arm to do so, she swung it. She used all of her strength and it hit the window full on with no hopes of returning. The window burst into one million little pieces. Every little piece fell to the ground like pieces of hail. Ding, ding, ding. It was a sort of peaceful sound.
The barrier, the one thing that had stood in her way all of these years, was gone. She heard her dad yell in the back. Of course he heard, she should have thought of that. The crowbar hit the window so hard you could hear the loud crash from the end of the street. But she didn’t care. All of those hopeless years of waiting seemed to disappear behind her. She climbed out of the huge hole she had just made in the wall and ran. She did not know where she was running to. She did not see anything. She just kept running faster and faster and did not look back. There was nothing left for her here.

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